Category Archives: health

Dancing With Alan Watts

It seems sometimes, in a Judaeo-Christian society, that we are a constantly being scrutinized by a rather harsh all-knowing God who rewards getting the faith-words accurately correct, to the letter, and the faith-based actions perfect, without a single mistake. And He punishes missteps of word or deed with pain and suffering and the potential of an eternity in Sheol or Hell. And that is a tough God to live with. He is like a teacher who uses his or her God-like powers to reward or punish to lead his students all down an exacting, narrow path to a destination that does not have room for everyone when they arrive.

It doesn’t take long in childhood for a highly intelligent person to realize before childhood is over that this cosmology is actually a load of horse pucky. It didn’t even take long for somebody as semi-stupid as me.

What I like about listening on YouTube to the wisdom of Alan Watts is that he gives us an alternative way of seeing the universe and ourselves. This he can offer through his studies of Eastern and Buddhist philosophies. Everything appealing in John Lennon’s signature song “Imagine” comes from Lennon’s love of listening to the lectures of Alan Watts. He is obviously a wise-guy.

Alan Watts teaches us the pathways that lead to finding yourself, who you truly are, and how you fit into the universe as a whole. When Carl Sagan says that we are all made of star-stuff, he is not only telling us what is literally true, as the elements our bodies were formed from were literally made in the nuclear forges at the centers of stars that later exploded in nova-bursts to scatter the elements across the skies of everywhere. He is also telling us that what Alan Watts says is metaphorically true, that everything in the universe is part of the same thing and we are all one in this way.

There is plenty to worry about in my little life. I could easily drop dead at any time from any one of my six incurable diseases or even the return of the skin cancer I beat in 1983. I suffer from the consequences of disease daily, as I have for many years now. My sins are many. I broke my promise the other day to never show you the horrors of my naked body on this blog. I constantly eat the wrong thing and continue to do things that I know are bad for the environment and the health of my body. I am prejudiced against racists, stupidity, and the actions of dedicated Trump-lovers. In many ways I deserve God’s wrath and brutal correction. I have come to truly believe that climate change is going to end life on Earth. I am horrible.

But I have learned from Alan Watts that all of those concerns mean nothing. I don’t believe in Heaven or an afterlife. But I do not fear death. I am one with the universe. And the universe goes on even if I do not. And I will always be a part of it, even after I am no longer alive. The universe has a mind and is intelligent And I take part in that because one small part of that intelligence is me, and lives in my head.

There is comfort to be found in the words of Alan Watts. And living in pain as I do, I really need that comfort most of the time. That is why I have attempted to share a bit of that comfort with you.

7 Comments

Filed under artists I admire, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, finding love, foolishness, healing, health, humor, Paffooney, philosophy

Doing Nothing

Yes, the retaining wall is leaning over the sidewalk and needs repair.

Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.

In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.

The wall began separating from the turf as it leaned, so we had to dig a trench to begin taking down the bricks one by one and re-staking them.

So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.

“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.

“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”

“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”

Not having the money to buy expensive equipment, I had to improvise and do it myself.

So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.

I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).

Doing masonry work takes some organization and some heavy lifting.

I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?

Work has run into winter time when things get rather cold and wet.

Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.

We began flattening out the foundation row of bricks just as winter rains began to perpetually fill the trench with water.

I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.

So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.

6 Comments

Filed under angry rant, autobiography, battling depression, being alone, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, new projects, novel writing, photo paffoonies

Ginger Ale


20181108_090115

Long about the middle of October every year I have to partake of the miracle that is Ginger Ale during pollen season.  And believe me, in Texas, pollen season lasts until the parched grass and dry air sets in again during the droughts of middle July through September.  Sometimes in a wet year (which used to be rarer than now) the tree pollen, mold spores, mountain cedar, and ragweed fill the air year around.  Ginger in any form is a god-sent cure-all for ailments of the lungs, ears, nose, and throat.  It reduces inflammation, dilutes mucus, and helps you restore the breath of life.  I have developed a real taste for ginger products of all sorts as a result of the medicinal boost it gives me every year.  It explains my addiction to gingerbread.  Also why I often put ginger root in a pot on the stove filled with boiling water and then inhale the fumes.  I love Ginger Ale because it makes me feel good.

Simon’s Cat on YouTube is another kind of Ginger Ale for me.  Admittedly it is a mental sort of medicine, not a drink or a cookie or a steam inhaler.  But watching those simple black and white cartoon antics that are so realistically catlike makes me laugh and increases serotonin in the brain, and it provides a very real depression medicine.

Now, I know full well that I am connecting two very unlike things and calling them both Ginger Ale on the mere passing similarity of the medicinal benefits.  But life is far more metaphorical than it is literal.  And that is why I continue to maintain that poets live better lives than the rest of us even if they die young for love of beauty.  And it is better to be a cartoon cat than a literal king.

Leave a comment

Filed under artists I admire, battling depression, cartoon review, commentary, goofy thoughts, healing, health, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Singing the Blues

blue2

People like me, people who depend so much on a sense of humor and a good laugh on frequent occasions, are usually subject to depression.  The bad thing about being up is that eventually, you come down.  And the higher up you go, the further down you fall.

I have learned a great deal about surviving a depression in my time on Earth.  I have been in the emergency room for a sufferer of depression three times, one of those when a child hurt himself.  I have talked people out of a suicidal depression in the middle of the night exactly three times… three very long nights, two of them over the phone, not knowing where the sufferer actually was.  I have had three different family members in psychiatric care, hospitalized for a week, five separate times.  They don’t tell you these things can happen in teacher’s college.  They don’t tell you that sometimes it is part of a teacher’s job to deal with it, both the depression of students in your care and family members subject to the effects of stress in teachers’ lives.

I have lost three former students to suicide. (Typing that line just made me cry again.)  One of my high school classmates ended it all with a gun.  And, of course, we all lost Robin Williams to the deadly darkness of the mind as well.

And I am depressed right now, a depression brought on by a week’s worth of weather-related arthritis pain.  I was also betrayed today by someone whom I thought was a friend.  But before you panic for my safety and call a hotline in my name, don’t worry.  I know the answer.  I fought depression long and hard enough to know where the ladders are in the mythical dark pit of despair.

For one thing, you have to make the sufferer remember the good things in life.  There are people and places and things to do that everyone can use as that wonderful good that you have to live on for.  Listing things you have to stay alive for is a ladder.  I have children still in school.   I have pictures to draw and stories to write before I am through.  There are people I love that I have to live for.  I wrote about one of those yesterday, and I have at least two thousand more.

In fact, I met a former student in the Walmart parking lot the other day.  She had lost her mother to suicide.  She suffered bipolar disorder and depression herself, and in her junior year of high school, we almost lost her.  But she had to stop me and make me recognize her to show me that she has made it.  She is alive and happy, years after the fact.  She is now a rung in my ladder.

When you have to talk to somebody who is dangerously depressed, it is not enough to keep saying that everything is going to be all right.  You have to show them the ladders. It helps to know where the suicide hotline telephone number is posted, or have a copy of it in your wallet.  It helps to know where to find good professional help.  It helps to know that every school has a counselor who will either provide the help or direct that help to you.  That is another important ladder.

Eating chocolate helps, or fruit.   Serotonin levels in the brain are low if you are depressed.  My wife left apple turnovers in the refrigerator for me.  Of course, non-chocolate candy is a bad thing.  A sugar high leads to a sugar crash, and that is worse than where you started.

Singing songs also works for me.  Hence, the novel I am working on is called Sing Sad Songs.  Even singing sad songs increases the oxygen flow to the old brain and helps it think more clearly, sing more melodiously (not odiously), and feel better.  Ladders made of candy and ladders made of song… bet you didn’t see that one coming.  Telling a joke, even a bad one, can make a ladder too.

Writing this blog can be used as a ladder.  As I close in on 700 words, I am feeling better than I did when I started.  So, please, don’t be afraid of the darkness, and don’t let it defeat you.  You can win.  I know it. Because I have walked that path, fallen into that pit, and found the ladder out.

5 Comments

Filed under battling depression, compassion, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, health, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Naked Innocence

So the time came to make the planned return trip to the nudist park in Alvord, Texas.  I was going to finally get to make my second visit to the place for the Labor Day holiday weekend.  But once again it was not to be.  My daughter caught a virus during her first week of school.  She gave it to me and her brother.  Of course, neither of them were planning to go along, and their mother would sooner find another husband than be naked in a place where other people would see.  They all think I am nuts for wanting to go spend time with other naturists gadding about naked in the hot Texas sunshine.  My wife wants me to get my head examined.  She thinks all the stories about aliens from outer space may have gotten my head artificially replaced by the Men in Black.

nude santa 1

And she may be totally correct in her assessment.  She is a school teacher, after all.  I, probably just like you, was carefully taught to never be seen naked in public because it is probably a sin, and it is definitely against the law, and it is very likely something only crazy people do on purpose.  Never-the-less, I did it once as a writing assignment for a nudist website that told me the review was wonderful and they were definitely going to publish it, and as of this writing, over a year later, they still haven’t done so (though a rival website reblogged one of my nudist posts from this blog).

bikeboy 1

I have come to the idiotic conclusion, though, that nudism isn’t sinful if practiced around like-minded people who are also comfortably nude.  I met and talked to nudists last year who were .very easy to get to know.  They were likable and no prettier in the buff than I am myself (and with my psoriasis pink leopard spots I am pretty horrible to look at naked.)  And the nudist park is not a place for sexual goings-on and sinful behavior.  It is a family environment where some people bring their naked kids.

I remember enjoying being naked as a kid even though I had been taught that Jesus is ashamed by seeing my nudity even though he is always watching over me, even when I am in the bathtub.  I remember one time when I was a pre-teen that I took my bicycle to the Bingham Park woods and rode it up and down the trails there completely naked.  And even though I had been carefully taught how evil that was, the cool wind on my skin felt good, and it was glorious to listen to the birds sing in a green wood almost as if it were the Garden of Eden and I was Adam, the first man.  (Hence the illustration of the bare bike boy.)

Sherry 1

It seems to me, now that I am old, retired, and probably at least a little bit senile, that nakedness is really a form of innocence.  I can tell you for a fact from being a parent and having, at one point, worked in a daycare center for ages five and below, that it is actually far easier to get a kid to go completely starkers than it is to get them to put on and comfortably wear clothes.  Nakedness is natural.  And if God had really wanted us to be naked all the time, then we wouldn’t have been born with a full suit of clothes on… er, wait… what?  Nakedness is innocent.  Anything bad that comes from it happens because of the things we have been taught about it as children.  A more enlightened society would probably be naked more than we are, especially inside temperature-controlled sealed environments… like houses, cars, and even spaceships.  Ah, yes, back to the Men in Black and possible head-switching again.  Aliens in their saucers are apparently often naked.  I wonder if Jesus is ashamed by their nudity too?

Anyway, I once again have failed to manage the planned nakedness I had been looking forward to.  I have to settle for the indoor, sealed-environment form of nudity as I am too sick to get to the nudist park, and would promptly be arrested if I tried to walk around the neighborhood like that.  But the failed evil plan did give me something to write about that at least makes me laugh.  And it is an innocent laugh, not an evil one.

naked426_n

Leave a comment

Filed under aliens, goofy thoughts, health, humor, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Benefits of Having a Virus

DSCN4549

To be perfectly honest, I can’t think of a single recommended use for a virus, either the computer kind or the kind I have right now that floored me for the past five days.  The computer kind damages expensive hardware and ruins expensive software, and serves no purpose I can fathom beyond usefulness in acts of evil.  And I do not recommend getting sick with a virus.  Every viral illness I have gotten over the past two decades has been, for me being a diabetic, potentially fatal.

But the book that Raggedy Clown and Baby Clown are displaying here in a vain attempt at marketing was written during a continuing siege of virally-induced bronchitis… Six times in four years.  Writing benefitted from lost work time and extended usage of sick days from my teaching job.  Some of my most creative work has happened because of bizarre dreams dreamed while having a fever.

20180829_165859

Idiotically I leaped out of bed with a feverish inspiration in the middle of a mostly sleepless night to write down a song, as if I had any business trying to be a songwriter.  I had listened earlier in the evening to a compilation of sad songs on YouTube obtained by typing the words “sad songs of the 80’s” into the search box.  I listened to a totally gawd-awful mess of weepers because in the book I am now writing, Sing Sad Songs, the main character Francois sings almost exclusively only sad songs.  That listening session must have caused just enough brain damage to make me think I could somehow compose a worthy sad song of my own to horrify readers with as an original song written by the character in the book.  Clever idea.  Impossible to carry out with my croaking toad-like musical abilities.  I can probably polish up the poetry to an acceptably awful level, but the tune half-heard in my dream is now completely lost and inapplicable.

Dr Seabreez

So, on the whole, I would have to say I have been decidedly unwell.  But, overall, it has not proved to be a barrier to my creative work.  It has really only served to make the strange little imaginary realm I live in a little bit stranger.

This is, of course, not a medical dissertation, or any sort of health and wellness advice that I am not qualified to give.  But it would be ironic if lots of people suddenly re-posted this essay and it ended up going viral like my post on visiting a nudist park did.

2 Comments

Filed under feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, healing, health, humor, illness, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Oh, Great! Illness Knows Where I Live!

Portrait from the Jungle

I am desperately trying to recover financially after being sued by Bank of America, forced into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and being hospitalized in November with heart troubles.  This Spring has found us repeatedly beset by illness as a family.  I mean, I have known for some time that the Grim Reaper has my address penned into his address book.  He knows where everybody lives.  At least those of us who are alive.

But the Third Horseman of the Apocalypse, the one with the scales,  who decides who deserves what and how much we get and how much we forfeit, has also taken notice and recommended that the Fourth Horseman sow a little pestilence in our garden.  I am ill again, for three days now, and my daughter is working on day two, the third illness since being diagnosed with the flu in January.

That Night in Saqqara 2 No one here is asking to live forever, but you would think horsemen could be a little more sympathetic and not layer on quite so thick a layer of never-ending disease.  And yet, I am reminded that I do plan to look at the benefits of the worst things that happen to me in life, and what good things they lead to.  I have been ill enough in my life to become quite good at it.  Arthritis has slowed me, but not stopped me.  I still get around quite speedily, even though I often require a cane to do it.  I am still not on insulin for my diabetes because of my diet and exercise efforts.  I have learned how to cope with illness and keep going in spite of it.

girl n bird

Now I hope to transfer some of my illness-battling skills to my daughter so we might have at least some hope of her graduating high school in two more years.

Leave a comment

Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, illness, Paffooney